The Windsor Report 2004

On care of dissenting groups

  1. The Commission has been made aware of the hurt and alienation felt by individual Anglicans, parishes and dioceses as a result of decisions made and actions taken by autonomous provinces within which there is profound disagreement. In some cases, there is a long history of suspicion and division over a range of issues, and the concern over homosexuality has merely provided the focus for reaction on the part of Anglican Christians whose motivation is to be faithful to Christian truth and values as they have understood them. But in all cases, this is a situation which cries out for healing and reconciliation.

  2. In addressing this situation, the Commission recognises and wishes to uphold the importance and relevance of the historically sanctioned role of the bishop as a core principle of Anglican ecclesiology. Tensions are particularly acute when parishes or dioceses feel that the spiritual leadership of their church has been compromised.

  3. In some instances, this breach of trust has been felt so keenly that a parish or diocese has found itself unwilling to accept the ministry of a bishop associated with such contrary action, and has invited bishops from elsewhere in the province or beyond to provide pastoral and sacramental oversight. In some cases, there are primates and bishops who have acceded to these requests with or without reference to the proper authorities of the diocese concerned. We want to make quite clear that we fully understand the principled concerns that have led to those actions even though we believe that they should have been handled differently.

  4. In these circumstances we call upon the church or province in question to recognise first that dissenting groups in their midst are, like themselves, seeking to be faithful members of the Anglican family; and second, we call upon all the bishops concerned, both the 'home' bishops and the 'intervening' bishops as Christian leaders and pastors to work tirelessly to rebuild the trust which has been lost.

  5. In only those situations where there has been an extreme breach of trust, and as a last resort, we commend a conditional and temporary provision of delegated pastoral oversight for those who are dissenting. This oversight must be sufficient to provide a credible degree of security on the part of the alienated community, so that they do not feel at the mercy of a potentially hostile leadership. While the temporary provision of pastoral oversight is in place there must also be a mutually agreed commitment to effecting reconciliation.

  6. During this period it would be axiomatic that the incumbent bishop would delegate some of his or her functions, rights and responsibilities to the ‘incoming’ bishop. In this regard, we commend the proposals for delegated episcopal pastoral oversight set out by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) in 2004[104]. We believe that these proposals are entirely reasonable, if they are approached and implemented reasonably by everyone concerned. We particularly commend the appeal structures set out in the House of Bishops policy statement, and consider that these provide a very significant degree of security. We see no reason why such delegated pastoral and sacramental oversight should not be provided by retired bishops from within the province in question, and recommend that a province making provision in this manner should maintain a list of bishops who would be suitable and acceptable to undertake such a ministry. In principle, we see no difficulty in bishops from other provinces of the Communion becoming involved with the life of particular parishes under the terms of these arrangements in appropriate cases.

  7. We are conscious that the Anglican Church of Canada is considering the adoption of a broadly similar scheme, and we ask that their proposals too should be marked by and received with a willingness to co-operate together in accordance with the principles we have outlined above.

  8. The Anglican Communion upholds the ancient norm of the Church that all the Christians in one place should be united in their prayer, worship and the celebration of the sacraments. The Commission believes that all Anglicans should strive to live out this ideal. Whilst there are instances in the polity of Anglican churches that more than one jurisdiction exists in one place, this is something to be discouraged rather than propagated. We do not therefore favour the establishment of parallel jurisdictions.

  9. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:

    • to express regret for the consequences of their actions
    • to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
    • to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.

    We also call upon these archbishops and bishops to seek an accommodation with the bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own care.

    We further call upon those diocesan bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) who have refused to countenance the proposals set out by their House of Bishops to reconsider their own stance on this matter. If they refuse to do so, in our view, they will be making a profoundly dismissive statement about their adherence to the polity of their own church.